B.C. health officials will not be changing their vaccine rollout plans, despite recommendations from the National Advisory Council on Immunizations that adults from ethnic minority groups should receive priority ahead of the elderly.
CTV News reports that provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said on Tuesday that the province will continue to prioritize people based on their age, a plan that runs counter to the federal advisory. Henry said that age is the single biggest factor contributing to COVID-19 deaths. Despite the decision, the province is still taking steps to ensure equal access to vaccines to all groups of people.
“I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive,” Henry said at a conference. "What we're trying to do is ensure that with every priority population that receives immunization, that we're doing it in a way that increases equity.”
Henry said that officials will be monitoring the rollout of vaccines to people aged 80 and older, and will be stepping in if there are gaps between racial groups.
In an interview with CTV News, Dr. Zain Chagla, a professor at McMaster University and an infectious disease specialist, said the goal of the recommendations is to ensure people are not left behind. Health authorities in the United States have warned that ethnic minorities have experienced reduced access to vaccines, although they are more likely to be affected by the virus.
Chagla said that clinics must serve communities that have high percentages of racialized people, not to give one group more access than another, but to ensure equal access for all.
“It's not proactively declaring your race, but it can be proactively (deciding) where you're going to put vaccine and engage people.”
The National Advisory Council on Immunizations said after long-term care residents, front-line health workers and those over the age of 70 beginning with anyone older than 80 then decreasing in age in five-year increments, Stage 2 should include:
- Adults in or from Indigenous communities not offered vaccine in Stage 1
- Residents and staff of other communal living settings such as shelters, jails and group homes
- Adults 60-69 years of age
- Adults in racialized and marginalized communities disproportionately affected by COVID-19
- First responders (e.g., police, firefighters)
- Front-line essential workers who cannot work virtually
- Those who are the primary caregiver for individuals at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 due to advanced age care